“Sitte ge sigewif, sigað to eorðe”: Settling the Anglo-Saxon Bee Charm within its Christian Manuscript Context

Pp. 46-71

  • Patricia O'Connor
Keywords: Marginalia, Bees, Old English Bede, New Philology, Old English Literature, Palaeography, Scribal Practices


The Anglo-Saxon Bee Charm  is one of a select number of Old English charms that were previously described as being “strange companions” to the Old English Bede (Grant 5). Written in the outer margin of page 182 of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 41 (CCCC41), the Bee Charm accompanies a passage from Chapter XVII of Book III of the Old English Bede  which narrates the consecration of a monastic site. Curiously, however, the Bee Charm’s connection to this passage of the Old English Bede  and its influence on our reading of this important text has  hitherto  been  inadequately  addressed.  Consequently,  the  objective  of  this article is to critically reconsider the Bee Charm within its immediate manuscript context and to highlight and evaluate the correspondences shared between the Anglo-Saxon charm and the adjacent passage of the Old English Bede. This codi-cological reassessment seeks to present a new interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon Bee Charm  through encouraging a more inclusive reading experience of CCCC41, which incorporates both the margins and the central text. In doing so, this study endeavours to offer significant insights into the function of the Bee Charm within Anglo-Saxon society and to contribute to our understanding of how these charms were perceived and circulated within late Anglo-Saxon England.